YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WORD PEDAGOGY II : THE ENEMY OF THE WORD
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Wis 12 : 13 – 19, Rom 8 : 26 – 27, Matt 13 : 24 – 43.
Christ’s follow up to the parable of the Sower of the Word of God is the parable of the Enemy of the Word /Sower in the dark. We have similar characters in the two stories ; the seed (Word of God), the sower (God), the field (the world), with the following additional characters ; the enemy /Sower in the dark (the devil) and the weeds (agents of evil).
The two important themes in the story are; the warning about how to respond to the ugly situation of the devil’s presence and the message about the harvest time. A very important aspect of the Word pedagogy which we started discussing last Sunday therefore is the knowledge of the wiles of the enemy.
The first target of the enemy is to challenge the Sovereignty of God. That ancient enemy who came to our first parents immediately after creation with the question : ‘Did God say…? has not stopped operating. He attacks our greatest sources of strength (our prayer life) and plants a lot of distractions and instruments of weakness such as idolatry, lust, anger /quarrels, laziness in prayer, etc thus removing man’s attention from worshipping his creator.
B. STUDYING THE ENEMY
Jesus gave him 10 titles in the Bible with which we will recognize his works ; (i) Deceiver, Gen 3 : 15, (ii) Liar, Jn 8 : 44, (iii) Sower of bad seed, Matt 13 : 26, (iv) Obstacle, Matt 16 : 23, (v) Murderer, Jn 8 : 44, (vi) Thief, Jn 10 : 10, (vii) Enemy, 1 Pet 5 : 8 – 9, (viii) Accuser of the Children of God, Rev 12 : 10, (ix) Prince of this world, Jn 14 : 30, (x) Tempter, Lk 4 : 2.
Looking at the 7 existential dimensions of the devil’s oppressions, we can outline the following ;
(i) Enemy of human happiness /peace and so causes murder, death, anger, jealousy, quarrels, etc, Gal 5 : 19 f.
(ii) Enemy of good leadership /good election and so causes rigging, manipulations of appointments, sychophancy, godfatherism, cultism, cabalism, etc.
(iii) Enemy of love and so attacking our various families, tribes and nations with hatred, disunity, quarrels, malice, etc.
(iv) Enemy of morality and so attacking our sense of self control through lust, immodest dressing, pornography, profane music, etc, Mk 7 : 15.
(v) Enemy of good health attacking human health through multiplication of sicknesses and diseases (pandemics and epidemics), fake drugs and fake doctors, bad dietary habits, excess drinking and smoking, infidelity and increase of sexually transmitted diseases, impotence, etc, 2 Sam 24 : 15.
(vi) Enemy of good education attacking our institutions through increase in examination malpractices, employment of wrong hands as teachers and lecturers, cultism, incessant strike actions, etc.
(vii) Enemy of the Word of God attacking the Church of God through unspiritual leadership, undue emphasis on sophistry in preaching, insufficient attention to the Word of God through incessant fund drives, laziness towards Sunday evening Bible studies, etc.
C. WAY OUT
Jesus gives the following recommendations as a way out of wiles of the enemy ;
(i) AWARENESS ; Be you not ignorant of the wiles of the enemy. He operates best as a deceiver when he is not detected or neglected. “The devi” says Fr Austin Asogwa, “is most active where he is denied, but most elusive where he is exaggerated”. I personally feel that removing demonology from the subject matter of theology has not helped the Church.
(ii) TOLERANCE ; ‘Let both grow together’ was Christ’s response to the presence of the enemy. We don’t need to waste so much time in exorcisms and ‘die by fire’ prayers. Christ says we should never throw away the baby with the bath water. We need to tolerate so many things in the house of God just to allow more time for God’s mercy and final justice.
(iii) CAUTION ; We must always be cautious to distinguish the wheat from the weed. They both sound alike and look alike. There are a lot of fake preachers, pastors, priests, religious fanatics and prayer contractors today who deceive people and worsen their problems. Christ says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’, Matt 7 : 24.
The enemy attacks our prayer life more than any other thing making us either pray less or pray wrongly. But the 2nd reading of today tells us that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses; in our tiredness with strength to pray, in our lack of words with spiritual groans, in our lack of burdens with spiritual burdens, in our lack of faith with confidence to call God ‘Abba Father’, Gal 4 : 7.
The greatest lesson we must learn from Jesus in today’s gospel is not to keep staging a fight with the enemy at his own level. We must avoid ‘echo spirituality’ – a spirituality of reaction. If we try to react at every provocations of the enemy then we must be prepared to be perpetually in the battle field with the enemy and it is worse when the battleground is ours. If we treat the enemy with kindness and tolerance we may either win him or at least prevent him from distracting us.
- Story of the little boy who misunderstood the sound of his own voice in the forest as an enemy until the mother adviced him to be kind to the enemy voice he was hearing.
A lot of what people call visions today is their internal noise ( psychic and spiritual passions) speaking to them and they confuse them as messages from God.
May God help us to be knowledgeable about the wiles of the enemy and how best to tackle him.
Happy Sunday dear friends!